Eating disorder men in Brighton start petition

Sam Thomas
Image caption Mr Thomas said some GPs assumed all bulimia sufferers were women

A charity set up to raise awareness for men with eating disorders is calling on the government to improve support for male sufferers.

Men Get Eating Disorders Too, based in Brighton, hopes to collect 100,000 signatures on an e-petition and spark a debate in Parliament.

Founder Sam Thomas said he had bulimia from the age of 13 and understood the problems men faced getting help.

Psychologist Dr Renata Pantke said GPs may blame symptoms on other problems.

Mr Thomas, now 25, said his bulimia began when he was bullied at school.

"I couldn't cope so I used to binge and purge in order to deal with the build-up of tension and anxiety.

"I know from having tried to seek help that often men are turned away or their symptoms are misdiagnosed or overlooked because of gender assumptions.

'Overlooked symptoms'

"I went to the doctor twice. When I was 16 I was too young to get the help I needed because of difficulties with parental consent.

"I went again at 18 when I was an adult (but) the doctor completely overlooked the fact that I had bulimia and just said I was depressed.

"I believe that if I had presented the same symptoms as a female I would have got a diagnoses of bulimia and a referral for treatment."

The charity's petition says it is estimated between 10% and 20% of people with eating disorders in the UK are men.

The eating disorder charity Beat estimates as many as 1.6 million people could be affected by these problems.

'Feel isolated'

"Once they get into the services they sometimes don't get the appropriate help," said Mr Thomas.

"You could find you are the only man in an eating disorder unit, which might make you feel quite isolated."

Dr Pantke, consultant clinical psychologist for Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, said men in general had a problem with talking about their problems.

"They try to cope the best way they can and often this is by themselves," she said.

An individual GP might have one or two people with anorexia on their caseload and about 18 with bulimia.

"It is relatively uncommon, so a GP, in their seven-minute consultation, may attribute problems about intestinal upset or loss of libido or tiredness to other problems," said Dr Pantke.

She added the Sussex trust, working with Brighton and Hove GPs, was setting up a new group treatment programme for people with moderate eating disorders.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites